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                                 Search for new AIDS Vaccine

Efforts to develop an AIDS vaccine received a boost with research showing that an experimental cold virus vaccine could control a virus similar to HIV in monkeys.

AIDS is a serious illness caused by infection with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). HIV breaks down the body's immune system, so the person with AIDS can no longer fight off disease successfully. As a result, secondary infections, cancers, and tumours occur more easily. At this time, though there are anti-viral drugs for HIV there is no cure or immunization that will prevent HIV infection, however a lot of research is being done for a vaccine.

The research was carried out by the Scientists at Merck. According to studies the cold virus (adenovirus) vaccine did not prevent infection but significantly reduced HIV in immunised animals and could provide important guidance about how to combat HIV/AIDS in humans.

This cold virus vaccine is the most potent HIV vaccine that has been tested in monkeys to date with a purely cellular immune response with corresponding control of infection. The vaccine reduced the virus almost 1,000-fold in the vaccinated animals compared to monkeys that had not been immunised. But in a separate study scientists at Harvard Medical School in Boston showed that the HIV can mutate and outwit the initial immune system response triggered by a similar vaccine strategy.

These two studies highlight the complexity of the search for an AIDS vaccine. In the first, infection with a hybrid HIV–SIV virus was effectively controlled in monkeys immunized with genetic vaccines. The second study reports that mutations can allow HIV to escape this immune control, emphasizing the challenges in developing an effective vaccine. There are limitations of vaccines that control rather than prevent HIV infection, and the difficulties faced by scientists trying to halt the worldwide epidemic that has infected 40 million people. However, the findings should not diminish the urgency or importance of testing this vaccine in human candidates.
Nature January 2002, Vol. 415

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